Sunday, February 1, 2009

Doctor Woah: Johnny Mnemonic Review

I fucking hate Keanu Reeves. This is all the intro I can muster. Let's just get on with it.

Here's the opening text. I would have just taken a screencap, but it's made to be as unreadable as possible thanks to a really bad “glow/shiny” effect. Two seconds in and miserable already.

“SECOND DECADE OF THE 21ST CENTURY” [What, was it to much to ask for a specific year?]

“CORPORATIONS RULE” [WOOOO Corporations! Yeah! You RAWK!?]

“THE WORLD IS THREATENED BY A NEW PLAGUE: NAS” [Oh come on, “One Mic” wasn't that terrible]

“NERVE ATTENUTATION SYNDROME” [Oh, it's a stupid made up disease. Almost kinda like Nas anyway, but go on]

“FATAL, EPIDEMIC, IT'S CAUSE AND CURE UNKNOWN.” [Apparently it goes right for the good punctuation and grammar genes]

“THE CORPORATIONS ARE OPPOSED BY THE LoTeks,” [NAS? What NAS? We've got Enron to deal with!]



IN THE INFRO-WARS.” [Again, grammar? And what's with the line breaks here? And what's an “Infro-War”?]



THE MOST POWERFUL OF ALL CRIME SYNDICATES.” [Really, still? They were reduced to throwing film directors off of rooftops for the crime of making comedies back in the nineties, I don't see them being all that big of a threat by 2025 or whatever.]


WAITING TO BURN THE BRAINS OF INTRUDERS.” [But let's just move on to more nonsensical babble instead of explaining the yakuza thing. Yeah~!]




OF THE WORLD.” [Spacing, again. Also, comparing someone to rats pretty much makes them sound useless.]





IN WET-WIRED BRAIN IMPLANTS.” [Did the wheezy wheelchair kid from Malcolm in the Middle dictate this or what? Who formatted this like this?! And “wet-wired brain implant” doesn't explain anything, it's only more confusing.]


-Corporations control the world...just like today

-All the real diseases are apparently gone, so let's just make up new ones

-There's some generic, unestablished resistance to the corporations who I'll bet we're supposed to care about despite knowing jack shit about them and being told they are rat-like.

-Yakuza: still lame.

-When all else fails, just confuse the audience with techno-babble.

A sparkling beginning to any film. Also, if your opening text scrawl stretches to two paragraphs and is so poorly punctuated, chances are you just took the rough draft of the screenplay and ran with it. There's no hope.

Oh you have got to be shitting me. They actually show the INTERNET as a Virtual Reality city. What is this, fucking ReBoot? God I hate techno movies from the early nineties. So after that embarrassing moment of naivete, we find Doctor Woah! himself in bed at the “New Darwin Inn” (oh for God's sake), where a beautiful women is dressing next to Johnny, but he's too busy watching cartoons on TV to notice her obviously grasping for his attention. Gives new depth to My Own Private Idaho. They have a vague conversation about “home” and how they don't know where it is and then the girl leaves claiming to go get ice. Johnny notices they already have ice. Burn!

Like anyone in this situation would, Johnny dials up Udo Kier on the videophone. Good ol' Udo. They have a vague conversation about removing an implant and how much it will cost. Udo says he can have it removed on the cheap, so long as Johnny doesn't expect all of his memories back (I guess “I don't know where home is” was supposed to establish amnesia), but if he wants to regain his past, it'll cost him. One more job ought to do it.

And so we cut ahead to Johnny wandering into Central Beijing, where an inexplicable riot is happening in the streets. All the protest signs are about NAS. Could you imagine a riot against, oh, Cancer? People flooding the streets demanding the end of that disease? Of course not, it would accomplish nothing. It's like protesting the sunrise. Anyway, Johnny heads into a building and while riding the elevator he connects some doohickey to his brain implant and doubles his brain capacity (can you really double zero?). Arriving at his destination, Johnny is greeted by the Asian equivalent of the Lone Gunmen from the X-Files...

...who insist he is late. He says they don't look like his usual patrons. They deliver some pointlessly expository dialogue and then get on to the job. They have a 320 GB load for him to carry, which is double the 160 he just set aside, and since his doohickey ominously warned against exceeding capacity, I'm gonna guess we have an issue, but Johnny says he has more than enough room. More exposition, this time regarding the deadly consequences of exceeding your memory capacity, which you would think Johnny would already know about and not need explained to him. Then we get to the loading process. Johnny explains that the Asian geeks need to pick three random images off the TV to be the “download code”, the key necessary to unlock the data. They'll send a hardcopy to their man on the other end of the delivery so he and only he can access the data. Meanwhile, Yakuza are riding up in the elevator. Uh-oh.

And now the upload, which involves a lot of grimacing and a lot of horrible CGI. I'm having VR5 flashbacks and I don't like it.

So Johnny survives the massive upload and...immediately takes a piss. Huh. Or at least he tries to, but random flashes of CGI send him sprawling to the floor. I guess even Keanu had some brains left to fry. And he has a nosebleed. Lovely.

And then he Vogues.

Rita Hayworth...We, like, totally love you.

Believe it or not, imitating Madonna actually calms his nerves. The Yakuza bust in and obliterate their fellow Asians. Well golly gee-whiz, I sure hope they sent the download code before that happened. Well of course they didn't, and Johnny is dumb enough to draw attention to the hardcopy so the Yakuza can destroy it. But hey, at least he escapes to live another...two or three days according to the laws of memory capacity.

And now it's off to “FREE CITY OF NEWARK”. Because everyone knows there's no use in taking over New Jersey. After a scan by airport security, Johnny learns he has 24 hours to live with his current level of “synaptic seepage” and takes the news surprisingly well. I guess animals on the intellectual level of Keanu Reeves aren't aware of their own mortality anyway. Elsewhere in Newark, apparent Yakuza capital of future Earth (why not), the leader of the strike reports to his boss, Takeshi Kitano (no, seriously) about the failure to capture Johnny, who has the last copy of the data they're after stuck inside his head.

And speaking of which, Johnny and Udo are having another videophone chat (what, could they not afford to pay Udo Kier to go on location?) regarding Johnny's memory capacity. Udo says something about someone who might be able to extract the data and that he'll tell the cab to take Johnny there straight away. And then we finally do see Udo up close and personal in a bizarre 21st Century nightclub of the traditional lame variety. Some guy and some woman talk about...something and then the woman says she has to be twice as quick as Udo's bodyguards and who cares?! Who are these people!? Woman goes over and beats up one of Udo's guards to prove her worth... only to be smacked down when he simply asks her to hold her arm out and she can't because she has the shakes. She's fast, but weak. Udo's guards suggest she try out for a job as a sexbot. Well, the transvestite alternatives here make her look perfect for the job, though normally I'd call her a tad too mannish.

Johnny arrives at his destination where...Oh for God's sake...where ICE-T spies on him from afar. Johnny goes inside a building where he is ambushed by some Yakuza folk who want to take his head, but of course since we're only 22 minutes in, Johnny escapes. Good thing he randomly thought to plant a concussion bomb outside the door just in case he needed a distraction. Outside, Ice-T's stupid buddy draws the Yakuza's attention and is promptly killed. Ice-T, knowing his friend was a dipshit, takes this in stride. Johnny saves Ice from certain death, and together Neo and Detective Tutuola take out a castoff from Silverado who is somehow a Yakuza member as well.

Or, more accurately, Ice just nonchalantly lobs a throwing weapon at the guy and kills him instantly. Ice finally reveals his identity: J-Bone, leader of the LoTeks. And then he magically vanishes.

Finally, the moment we've all been waiting for: the Keanu Reeves-Udo Kier My Own Private Idaho reunion.

Johnny wants off with Udo's head for the set-up, but one of the guards knocks Johnny out, much to the dismay of Udo who insists the boy shouldn't be hit on the head. Whatsherface woman notices Udo and his guards lugging Johnny's body out of the club and follows them. The last Yakuza from the original strike teams up with Udo et al for a little game of Operation: Special Decapitation Edition, which our nameless woman of course interrupts. Udo ponders “Vaht ze vack ees goink onk?”, an apt question for the whole movie so far. Udo finally gives woman a name, Jane, as he tries to buy her off. Johnny outbids and earns himself Jane's services as a bodyguard. There's a tremendous WTF moment when Johnny and Jane escape and the Yakuza randomly slices Udo to bits with some techno-whip thingy. Yeah, kill your last remaining ally in a crisis situation.

His decision becomes only worse when his chase of Johnny and Jane is stopped by an army of LoTeks, who far outnumber the four or five completely random asians who magically appear from nowhere to back up Yakuza guy.

And now it's time for the Chat-fest portion where we establish some character background. Here's the quick and dirty:

-Takeshi is fucked because his as-far inept errand boy is somehow or another going to usurp him.

-Johnny gave up his childhood memories to make room for his data-carrying implant.

-Jane hung out with the LoTeks as a kid.

-Johnny NEEDS.


And with that Shatner-esque dramatic pause-laden statement...they randomly find one! Hooray! Movie's over! Woooooooo! Using the worst VR effect since The Lawnmower Man, Johnny finds out that the idiot Asians sent the download code to a copyshop in Newark. But the code didn't come through. GOD DAMMIT. The Yakuza have remotely spotted Johnny and send him a virus. DOUBLE DAMN. The movie must continue. Johnny and Jane flee, leaving behind a grenade to wipe out more random Asians, much to the dismay of the inept Yakuza moron, who finally – 43 fucking minutes in – is given the name Shinji.

Takeshi finally takes matters into his own hands and hires the services of The Street Preacher, a demented, jacked-up hitman posing as a man of the Lord. The job is simple: retrieve Johnny's head within 24 hours (shouldn't it be like 12-15 by now?). Elsewhere, Johnny hacks into the computers of PharmaKom, the company that is supposed to receive his load, and arranges a meeting to finally get rid of the shit in his head. As our Doofy Twosome head for their meeting, Jane mentions a friend named Spider who might be able to fix Johnny's implant...and then she promptly convulses and collapses. Oh yeah, that NAS whateverthefuck. And here I thought she was just practicing for a re-enactment of the “Like a Prayer” music video, the way she was shakin' it.

Anyway, through the blissfully short attention span of terrible movies, we just cut right to Spider's house. Spider, by the way, is Henry Rollins. What the fuck, dude? And he's saddled with a pathetic speech about how all that dastardly technology caused NAS. Of course, he offers no explanation of how computers created a neurological disorder...but who cares, Keanu wouldn't be able to follow anyway.

Back in Takeshi's office we get some insight into a character I haven't discussed yet: the internet lady. There's this weird disembodied woman living inside the internet who pops up to talk about basically nothing. Takeshi's...employee of some sort explains that she's a famous scientist who died, but had her brain converted to Artificial Intelligence so she could live on in some weird state of being. And that's it.

At the Club, Street Preacher tortures an employee for info on where Jane and Johnny went. This torture involves dipping the man's robotic arm in liquid nitrogen, which really shouldn't hurt if his arm is robotic, should it? Why would you put nerves in a robotic implant? The flaw in transhumanism is revealed.

Over at Spider's, a brain scan reveals some pretty bad damage to Johnny's implant, which we basically already knew about. Johnny mentions the name of the delivery recipient, whom Spider happens to know (how convenient), and our intrepid trio is off. Only to immediately run into (literally) the Street Preacher. Luckily he's an entirely synthetic being and easily survives being run over by a car. Our heroes arrive at the hospital, a run down and pathetic place that gives Keanu his Oscar clip as he reacts in horror to what medicine has become in this terrible, technology-laden future. And then to add to the problems, the Doctor Allcome Spider claims to know is actually just a code word among the doctors that means “All come”. *rim shot*

So, in other words, that big data load was intended for a random group of underground doctors in a shithole hospital. Whatever happened to PharmaKom? Fuck it. Spider reveals that Johnny is carrying the cure for NAS (dun dun dun). Right on cue, Street Preacher wanders in. Johnny and Jane make it out, but Spider gets an old fashioned crucifying for his troubles. Johnny contacts PharmaKom again, but this time the movie reveals that the PK rep is actually a CGI puppet controlled by Takeshi (dun dun dun?). Internet lady shows up to berate Takeshi, but he just shuts the computer off. What a useful character internet lady is.

There's a really bizarre scene where Johnny tries to get into LoTek HQ...but they drop a flaming, exploding car on him? Why!? Oh, it's an excuse for another Keanu Oscar clip as he makes a melodramatic speech about saving the world and blah blah in such a fashion that brings to mind Shatner singing/shouting “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man”.

“I WANT ROOM SERVICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”


Anyway, after entering LoTek HQ and suffering another random act of CGI, Johnny has a glimpse of his childhood and decides he's in love with Jane. Why save that big kiss for the ending, anyway? Who needs drama? J-Bone introduces Johnny to LoTek master codebreaker Jones. Jones is a dolphin. Why? BECAUSE.

And so they hook Johnny up so Jones can crack the code. Meanwhile Takeshi and his men begin sneaking in to LoTek HQ. Again with that exploding car thing...

Takeshi corners Johnny, but internet lady magically appears looking like Master Control Program from TRON to stop him.

You know, I just realized who's playing internet lady. Fucking Barbara Sukowa, notable for starring in the movie Europa, which is a brilliant fucking masterpiece. How do you go from Lars von Trier movies to Johnny Mnemonic? Jesus Christ. Anyway...Takeshi just snaps a cable and shuts down her feed. Seriously, what a useless character. Shinji shows up and shoots Takeshi all to hell...sonuvabitch, they were right. Well, for a minute anyway. Shinji and Johnny have a big battle that ends with the two of them hanging off a ledge. Johnny uses that weird whip thing to take Shinji's head off...and then there's another exploding car. What the hell? Was decapitation not enough? Was there a three-exploding-car minimum on this production? Why? Luckily, Street Preacher shows up to kill time in the last section of the film.

With his dying breath, Takeshi gives Johnny the second image of the download code, but right now Johnny has to save his lady from a crucifiction (one note act that Street Preacher). Forget what I said about him killing time...Jones just zaps him with a weird death ray thing. Anti-climactic to say the least. Johnny hooks up to Jones for the download, but first internet lady shows up to give a dim speech about stopping the evil PharmaKom she helped create, blah blah. And then she dies, I guess (her image goes up in purple flames, whatever that means). Johnny searches his own memory for the last download code image, It's internet lady, of course (this is where the hankies come out). The download goes through (with CGI that makes Lawnmower Man look stunning by comparison) and the whole world gets to see the cure. And, of course, Johnny gets his childhood back.

And, DUH, internet lady was his mom. Even though she's like German or something and he's Keanu Reeves. J-Bone gazes on the horizon to see that PharmaKom HQ has blown up for literally no reason. THE END.

Good God what a stupid fucking movie. And what a stupid fucking leading man. You almost have to see this movie to understand how horrible Keanu was here...but I don't recommend it.


The Cheap-Arse Film Critic said...

I once got yelled at for comparing Paul Newman to Keanu Reeves. My logic was they both played essentially the same character in every movie they're in, regardless of what the writing asks of them.

Obvioussly one is better at it than the other, too.

Redunbeck said...

Never thought of that...Admittedly I think it would be a bit of stretch to call, say, Brick from "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and Cool Hand Luke the same character. But then again, on the whole, I'm a Newman neophyte (blasphemy, I know), so maybe when I see more I'll see where you're coming from.